Sourcing its strength from modesty and restraint, Paradise’s fine-line work holds life and death in an obsessive vice-grip – offering a window into the New Zealand-hailing artist’s internal landscape. Working from the outside in, real-name-Rene O’Donnell-Gibson’s delicate and disarming markings infiltrated the industry in an incredibly natural and effortless way – as if his vision of love and loss was always destined for skin. Here, Rene demystifies his otherworldly influences, the importance of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and speaks to the benefits of being a multi-disciplinary creative.
“I try not to think about it all too much. It’s just how I draw – what comes naturally, you know? If I think about something too much, I come up with nothing,” speaks Rene O’Donnell-Gibson, better known as ‘Paradise’, to the influences behind his fine-line minimalism. Born in Napier, New Zealand, the arcadia-inclined tattoo artist grew up in the small beach-town of Hawke’s Bay – surrounded by art-deco architecture and uncomplicated coastal living. However easy it may be to relate such sea-side beginnings with Rene’s fixation with leisure and nostalgia, it’s hard to ignore the sense of unreality, otherworldliness and fantasy held within the faceless characters and endless horizons that permeate his work. “I daydream a lot about things that are out of reach or don’t exist in “real life”. I think that comes from watching far too many movies. I love the idea of a place or person or moment that’s perfect or romantic or fleeting. I think that comes across in my work.”
When making the decision to become a full-time tattoo artist, Rene gave himself the goal to make it happen in three-years, but within six-months everything had already aligned for the hopeless romantic. “Throughout the years I didn’t do well with employment. I either quit or was fired from 90% of the jobs I had. During a period of unemployment, I constructed an electric tattoo machine and started tattooing myself and friends. I quickly picked up a coil machine and continued to tattoo people here and there in my spare time. After a few years, I started to take it all more seriously – to the point of deciding I wanted it to be a full-time thing. Instagram had kicked in around the start of 2015, and it wasn’t long after this that the concept of ‘Paradise’ came together. Everything evolved from there in a pretty rapid way.”
Rene first attempted to produce prison-style tattoos out of a mix of boredom and curiosity – adorning any space that was given to the self-taught artist with furnished rooms and mournful playboys, but over the past 2-years Rene has both carved out his own space within an industry saturated with talent and managed to remain true to the vision at the heart of his work. Littered with roses and Calvin Klein jeans, Paradise’s tattoos, although delicate, hold a confident control over space and balance, and although he has only seen a relatively recent rise to prominence, his relationship with tattooing has lasted a lifetime. “I have always loved tattoos since I can remember – since I was 12-years-old, I think. I thought for years about what I would one day get. Those ideas were naturally terrible, but it wasn’t until I was about 17-years-old that one of my brothers showed me Liam Sparke’s work. What Liam was doing at the time was the most innovative thing I’d personally seen in tattooing. His work led me to develop an interest in simple, line-work tattoos.”
Tattooing soon took Rene from a private-studio in his adopted Australia to Greenpoint Tattoo Company and the legendary New York-based Street Fever. Rene describes his time in New York as “the most exciting part of my career”, but has found himself base-less over the past 12-months – marking clients on his travels from London to Paris to San Francisco. “I’ve been travelling for the past year. It’s made me learn to try and do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. I think that helps you grow and become a stronger person, but I hope to move to New York to live and work.” When speaking to his thoughts on settling following a year of transience, Rene remains both hopeful and humble – looking to develop upon what he’s already created. “I want to continue to focus on doing larger scale work with my tattooing and work on my painting and music. I think it’s important to be creative in multiple ways so they can inspire one another.”
You can find more from Paradise on Instagram.